Mayor Michael Bloomberg is upping the ante in the battle over a homeless mega-shelter on 95th street. Bloomberg is suing comptroller John Liu for rejecting the shelter contract earlier this month on what the city says were unfair grounds, and for publicizing the rejection in a misleading way, the Times reported. (We have asked the mayor’s office for a copy of the suit but have yet to receive it.)
Bloomberg also says Liu has a tendency to publicize his rejection of a contract and then quietly register the contract later. He just did that with the Central Park Conservancy’s $90 million contract, the Times reported.
Spokesperson Stephanie Hoo sent us a statement from the comptroller’s office. It said, in part: “The Comptroller’s primary responsibility is to safeguard taxpayers’ money, and this Administration has wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on a homeless policy that has failed completely. The Comptroller’s office has every intention to continue to use its powers under the City Charter to safeguard taxpayer spending on outside contracts.”
Bloomberg has funneled an increasing amount of money to outside contractors, Hoo noted, with spending jumping to $11.3 billion in fiscal 2014 from $6.2 billion in 2003.
Liu apparently has limited powers to reject a city contract. According to the Times:
“Under the charter, the only basis for a comptroller to scuttle a contract is evidence of possible corruption in the contracting process. And in rejecting the shelter contracts, Mr. Liu did not raise the corruption issue; the reasons he cited include concerns over inspections and certificates of occupancy.”
Whether or not the administration prevails on this issue, it’s strange that the mayor is using this particular contract to make the point. As we’ve noted numerous times, the no-bid $47 million contract is a startling payoff to a politically connected CEO and a notorious landlord. A state Supreme Court justice said that the Bloomberg administration’s approach to homeless shelters like the one on 95th smacks of “CIA black op” tactics. Neighborhood in the Nineties has sued the city and Aguila Inc. (the shelter operator), attempting to shut down the shelter and uphold Liu’s rejection of the contract. Liu is one of the only public officials who has spoken out and investigated the practices. Under Bloomberg, the city’s homeless shelter population has jumped 61%.
Photo via World Bank Collection.